The Pittsburgh Penguins decision to return Daniel Sprong to the Charlottetown Islanders is a huge lift for a hockey club with 29 points and is tied with Acadie-Bathurst and Halifax for 17th in the 18-team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Averaging less than three goals a game, the Islanders are confident Sprong and newcomer Sam Blais will fix their scoring woes and adjust their compete level, which has been non-existent some nights.
"How good is our club when all hands are aboard?" is a question I've heard over and over at various sports watering holes in the city this week.
Sprong's return has certainly changed the Islanders outlook because it means goaltender Mason McDonald will remain an Islander and you and I know he's capable of winning two or three games by himself. If everything goes as planned, including the return of Kameron Kielly and no key long-term injuries, the Islanders can finish as high as eighth.
I have not seen a dominant team thus far in the league, and if the local club brings its A game and plays desperation hockey, they can enjoy some success. I am certain they can make the playoffs but there are too many question marks on the blue-line to think this club is ready for a long playoff run.
The trade of robust defenceman David Henley to Val-d'Or for a first round pick in 2018 and a pair of second-rounders does little to help right now. It's like being on the Titanic and your waiting for help to come tomorrow. Henley's trade further weakens an already suspect group, but that can be remedied with a trade. Right now, Luc Deschenes has been solid, especially moving the biscuit. Until help arrives, he, along with Will Thompson and Dexter Weber, will have to play a lot more minutes.
The next home game is against Moncton on Wednesday, so let's get out and support our Islanders.
The Island's only professional team, the Island Storm, makes its debut today at the Eastlink Centre with a 2 p.m. game against the Saint John Mill Rats.
Head coach Joe Salerno thinks new point guards Malcolm Grant and Gary Gibson are as good as they get in this league and that's good enough for me. Guards Terry Thomas and Brent Jennings have been impressive in the exhibition games, and the team's game plan appears to be defence-first, as opposed to high scoring, which was the case last season with standouts like Brandon Robinson.
The Storm challenged for the championship last year losing in the division final to Halifax. Some of the talent is back, including popular players like Billy Rush, Rashad Whack and always-hustling Nick Evans. Some of the new big guys include ex-Halifax Rainman Robert Nortmann and talented Carlos Emory.
Live harness racing continues today at 12:30 p.m. with a 15-dash card. The $2,250 feature has attracted horses like Forever Paradise, Cambest Kisser, Idealic Life, Lucky Encounter, Tempo Seelster, Likely to Win, Painted Desert and Smiley Bayama. There's also the $2,350 open mares with Sam and Best Risque on the outside in the seven-horse field.
At Woodbine, the 1 p.m. card features the $34,000 valedictory final for three-year-old pacers.
At The Meadowlands, tonight's 15-dash card gets underway at 6:30 p.m. and the feature is the $25,000 open trot.
At Pompano last Sunday, Arthur Blue chip stepped to a new record of 1:50:1 in winning the $11,500 top class for driver Wally Hennessey.
Bill Andrew and Dr. Ian Moore advanced to the final for an O'Brien Award as breeder of the year and horsemanship, respectively. I thought for sure Moore would be a nominee for trainer of the year and still think he should have been a finalist and eventual winner.
The Prophet's Football Picks
We were a perfect 5-for-5 last week, so let's keep it going.
Washington Redskins (7-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-8) - The Skins are a meagre 1-5 on the road but QB Kirk Cousins has been razor-sharp lately while the Eagles were pounded by Arizona last Sunday. Philadelphia is favoured today by three, but I like the Skins outright.
New England Patriots (12-2) at New York Jets (9-5) - The Pats are just three-point favourites, are you kidding me? Vet QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been great for the Jets, but he's lifetime 1-7 versus Brady and Belichick, make that 1-8 after Sunday.
New York Giants (6-8) at Minnesota Vikings (9-5) - The Giants find new ways to lose every week and head coach Tom Coughlan is finished in Gotham. Vikings cover the six-point spread.
St. Louis Rams (6-8) at Seattle Seahawks (9-5) - The spread is a mind-boggling 13.5 points. Seattle is red-hot and QB Russell Wilson has thrown 19 touchdowns in his last five games, an NFL record. The Rams always give Seattle trouble, have beaten them earlier, and will keep this one a lot closer than the spread. Take the points and play the Rams.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at email@example.com.